Health

A perfect feast: the healthy way to celebrate Eid

By Susie East, for CNN

Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT) June 13, 2018
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This week brings the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a 30-day fast practiced by many of the 1.8 billion Muslims living worldwide. The end of the fasting period is celebrated with the feast day of Eid al-Fitr.
But after prolonged periods of fasting, some strategic eating may prove beneficial in order to enjoy the multitude of food on offer. Two top nutrition experts share their health tips to help those celebrating make the most of the delicious feast.
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In some places a typical Eid morning might begin with a plate of sheer khurma, a vermicelli and milk pudding spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. Starting the day with a small breakfast is a good idea, says Courtney Ferreira, a Clinical Nutritionist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The key is to go slowly no matter how tempting big plates of food may seem. Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images
Resistance may be a battle, but avoid indulging all at once."It's better to eat little portions at a time than fill yourself up all at once," Ferreira said. "Make sure you're listening to your body. ... Being aware of what you're eating is almost more useful for people than what exact foods to eat." STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Gastrointestinal problems such as bloating can be avoided by sticking to small portions. "You can have some GI distress when you're eating that much, especially when you're not used to it," Ferreira said. "Eat a variety, but keep your quantities small. That will just help you prevent that uncomfortable fullness." Rahman Roslan/Getty Images
Though sweets such as baklava are an important (and delicious) part of the feast, be sure to go easy on them. "After doing a lot of fasting, if you're putting that much sugar into your body, it can make you feel ill and nauseous from the high blood sugar. ... It's just not the best for your body to have those crazy surges," Ferreira said. SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images
Whether you eat baklava, roti john or lalmohan, diversifying food intake is key for a balanced diet. Experts advise making sure to get enough protein, carbohydrates, fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the day to keep your body happy. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
"Fruits and vegetables, those are going to provide you with minerals you've missed out on," Ferreira said. She highlights that people don't need to take vitamins if they go back to eating a healthy diet in the weeks after the feast. Francois Nel/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Fasting during Ramadan also involves no drinking during daylight hours, so the body can have some hydration to catch up on during Eid celebrations. "As well as enjoying delicious dishes, remember to keep drinking fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated," Ferreira said. ROMEO GACAD/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Over the month of Ramadan, good bacteria have been growing in your gut, according to Tim Spector, author of "The Diet Myth" and professor at Kings College London. "A fast is a good way of regenerating your microbes, so that will increase certain beneficial species that you want to keep going through the times when you're not fasting," he said. Francois Nel/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
One type of microbe, akkermansia, is particularly helpful. "It comes out during fasting periods, and because it has no food to feed off, it actually nibbles away at your gut lining," Spector said. Fear not -- this is a good thing. "It tidies it up," he said. PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
During a feast, Spector recommends eating probiotics such as cheese and yogurt as well as polyphenol-rich foods including artichokes, leeks, onions, red berries and extra virgin olive oil, which provide energy for the now-abundant levels of good bacteria in your gut. ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
After a month of fasting, it will take some time for your body to adjust to a normal diet. Ferreira explains that it's also best to get back to normal eating habits the day after the feast, so nutrients can be replenished regularly over the following weeks.
"Most people return to their normal state within two to four weeks. ... It depends on your age [and] your medical condition, how quickly your body will bounce back," she said.
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Although it's important to eat healthy, the main thing to remember on a celebration day like Eid al-Fitr is to have fun. "People should enjoy themselves! It's a tradition. They want to have a good time," Ferreira said.
You now have your tips -- go out and celebrate!
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